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Young student ended up in psychiatry after a misdiagnosis - it almost cost her life

Young student ended up in psychiatry after a misdiagnosis - it almost cost her life


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Young woman fights for her life after being misdiagnosed in psychiatry

An English patient had to experience firsthand how serious misdiagnoses can be. Suddenly Hannah Farrell had trouble speaking. In addition, she became extremely forgetful. Doctors did not know what to do and referred the patient to psychiatry. As it turned out later, this was a fatal diagnostic error.

"I felt physically ill. I couldn't eat without nausea, I slept all the time, I couldn't sit still, and I couldn't find the words to tell my family that I loved them. ”22-year-old student Hannah from Dublin suddenly suffered in one stressful life situation with serious physical and mental complaints. She turned to a doctor. Diagnosis: depression, anxiety, suspected borderline. The young woman was admitted to a psychiatric facility and shortly thereafter fell into a coma. The real reason behind the symptoms was initially not recognized. Hanna almost lost her life.

The young student Hannah Farrell from Dublin, Ireland, shared her story of suffering with the charity “Encephalitis Society” to draw attention to her rare illness so that others could be spared this suffering.

A momentous summer

Hannah was in an extremely stressful life in summer 2017. Her exam was just around the corner, she worked on the side in a deli, an important relationship in her life broke up, and then her grandmother passed away. Shortly afterwards, the young student showed strange complaints. She became forgetful, constantly had nausea, had difficulty finding words and was always tired. Her parents thought this was a reaction to the past. They thought their daughter was having a nervous breakdown.

Hannah ends up in psychiatry due to a misdiagnosis

The parents drove her to a psychiatric clinic. Today the student remembers that she was sure that everything was fine with her psyche. However, her true illness prevented her from expressing it correctly. "I was paralyzed both physically and mentally," she says in her medical history. It was not possible to correctly describe her symptoms of the disease. The psychiatrists in the clinic diagnose depression and anxiety disorder with suspected borderline. Hannah was immediately admitted to the psychiatric clinic.

It was like a nightmare!

“The day I was admitted to the psychiatric clinic is a day I'll never forget,” says Hannah. Even today she wakes up sweating with nightmares about this day. After the diagnosis, no one wanted to listen to her anymore and her ability to speak was so bad that she could not defend herself. Hannah describes how she was brought into a dark, cold room with thin, brown sheets. She was tired and confused. The room turned and she couldn't think clearly. The last thing the student remembered was that a nurse wanted to give her antidepressants and sedatives. With the last of her strength, Hannah refused to take the medication. Then she fell asleep and did not wake up until ten weeks later.

Psychologist is startled

When Hannah doesn't wake up the next day, an experienced psychologist is taken aback. He does a couple of simple reaction tests that Hannah doesn't respond to. This gives him the idea that the problem must be of a neurological nature. He has an MRI scan of the young woman, where the doctors discover a huge cyst in the brain. 24 hours later, she is transferred to the emergency room.

The cyst is not the real reason either

At first, the doctors were convinced that the cyst was responsible for all symptoms. In further investigation, however, it turned out that Hannah is fighting an infection. The doctors are initially at a loss and give her antibiotics, whereupon Hannah falls into a catatonic rigidity. Her condition worsened over the next five days. The doctors were shocked and continued to examine until they finally found out that Hannah was suffering from inflammation of the brain.

Rare form of encephalitis

Hannah's parents were initially relieved when the doctors told them that they finally knew what she was suffering from. It was NMDA encephalitis, a rare form of brain inflammation. In this autoimmune disease, the brain forms antibodies against the body's own NMDA receptors, a protein that plays an important role in signal transmission in the brain. This disease was first described in 2007 and has a high mortality rate.

Hannah wakes up after ten weeks

After several treatments with steroids and blood plasma transfusions, the doctors administered their rituximab, a biotechnological drug that is mainly used in cancer immunotherapy. A short time later, Hannah opened her eyes again. In the following weeks she had to learn to walk and speak again, but her illness is far from over.

The hard way back to reality

In February 2018, she was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital, where she was supposed to learn to become more independent again. Simple things like speaking, reading and writing still gave her problems. She received speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychological counseling and had to take around 40 tablets every day. In December 2018, Hannah was finally allowed to return home from the hospital.

What about Hannah today?

Hannah has recovered and can participate in life again, even if the illness has left clear traces. She needs to take an immunosuppressant twice a day, which suppresses the autoimmune reaction. In November 2019, she wants to stop taking the drug. The young woman has to deal with the risk of relapse. According to doctors, there is an approximately 25 percent risk that the disease will recur. Hannah doesn't let that get her down. She has gone back to college where she wants to continue her studies. "My brain is now working a bit slower and it is difficult to keep up with everything," reports the student. "Fortunately, my friends are very understanding, which makes it much less frustrating and embarrassing for me." (Vb)

Author and source information


Video: Screening for Paediatric OSA Using a Pulse Oximeter (July 2022).


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